After the fan-fare of Microsoft’s latest offering in the form of the XBox Kinect, I was my usual sceptical self on whether it was actually any good. Reviews looked positive but I found it difficult to be convinced of a controller-free interface. Surely it’s going to be buggy and have problems? This is, after all, a Microsoft product and rarely do their products go without a technical hitch of some kind or another.
At the weekend I had the opportunity to try out the Kinect in the flesh and I was surprisingly impressed. The little “Johnny Five” looking device quite happily sits on top (or below) your TV and physically moves to look around the room to analyse its surroundings. Scarily watching everything going on and letting you know if you’re too close or too far away. You do need a lot of space to use the Kinect, especially if there is two of you playing and you will bump into each other or furniture if you don’t give each other enough elbow room. You need to be at least 2 metres away from the device which I think will be a stretch for a lot of UK living rooms. The interface is quite nice to use although I was initially trying to physically tap the buttons in front of me rather than just hovering my hand in the air over the selection that I wanted for 2 seconds. Once I had worked out the interface it was pretty easy to navigate around.
The games on offer were Dance Dance Revolution (bought separately) and the Kinect Adventures that came with the device. I wasn’t that impressed with Dance Dance Revolution. It seemed a bit under developed with a pixelated cut out of yourself moving around the screen. A demo of Dance Central on the Adventures disk was much better executed with an avatar to follow and some fun freestyle elements thrown in. We had a lot of fun playing this with the practical jokers in our group taking on the advanced dance moves without a practice!
Going back to the Adventures disk there are a lot of games to play. Games that involve plugging holes in an under water box, jumping and ducking on conveyor belts, riding in a dinghy over rapids etc. Really creative and fun looking games but the lag between physical movement and the game were quite clear. You had to plan most moves about half a second before the Kinect registered them which was a bit frustrating at times. Generally though, you were too knackered from jumping around to care. My personal favourite game was a bubble popping one where you flap your arms to elevate and move backwards and forwards to collect bubbles. Jutting around the lounge like a dodo flapping your arms is very funny to watch but the game itself is quite additive and anyone playing has the same confused yet concentrated look on their faces as if they were playing a FPS sat down with a controller. The body does not reflect what the face portrays!
We also tried out the Joyride game demo and the Your Shape fitness er… game? Joyride was fun but a bit difficult to control. I never liked the steering wheels on the Nintendo Wii so this didn’t appeal to me apart from the novelty factor. Your Shape was very good though and quite accurate in measuring you body position with a fire coloured shape of your body. It even registers your clothes so if you take your jacket off it gives your jacket the same colour as your body. The demo is only a punching blocks game but it is satisfyingly fun and the sound effects are really good. The full game has kicking moves amongst extra exercises. Definitely a good contender against Wii Fitness. Having no extra peripherals will make games like this very attractive.
In conclusion, I really like the Kinect. It’s well made and looks to have a bright future but right at this very moment I resent it. Yep, you read right. I resent it.
I pulled a muscle in my calf over the weekend from jumping and crouching and I have been in agony ever since. Seriously, don’t play Kinect games straight after driving for 2 hours. Warm up first! (ouch!)